Music Spotlight

 

Wendy Rule

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Cover image by Vicki Teague-Cooper

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Persephone:
TWPT Talks with Wendy Rule


TWPT:  Tell me about what music means to you in your life. How far back does your love of music and performing go and how has it crafted your life over the years?

WR:  Iíve always felt a strong connection to music. I loved messing around on our old piano when I was a kid, picking out melodies and making up my own. And Iíve always sung - since as long as I can remember. Iíd make up little tunes as I was walking, or sing myself into a trance as I hung out in our garden with the faeries. But I didnít begin actually performing until, at age 15, I auditioned for my High School musical and won the lead role! Then there was no holding me back. I loved it. I got a part time job so that I could afford private singing lessons, and the following year I played Dorothy in The wizard of Oz. Lots of fun! By this stage I was hooked and all I could think about was singing. After high school I joined a local musical theatre troop and took part in more productions, all the time training my voice. And then, when I went on to college (to study literature) I teamed up with a fellow musician and began to sing covers in cafes etc, which led to me becoming a jazz singer, which I did for years.

TWPT:  When did you start writing/composing your own music and what inspired you to step out and create your own songs?

WR:  Although I enjoyed singing jazz, I was feeling very creatively stifled. I knew there was something more that I should be offering, but didnít know what. Then I discovered Witchcraft! This coincided with the birth of my son Reuben when I was 25. I had an epic spiritual epiphany which thankfully  led me on the path to Paganism. I began writing profusely - about Magic, myth, and my own deep emotional journeys.

TWPT:  Does your spiritual path play a role in the songs you write? How so?

WR:  Absolutely! My spiritual journey is my prime motivation for writing songs. For my latest album, Persephone, Iíve spent years doing ritual in honour of the goddesses who feature in the myth. Iíve traveled to Greece numerous times to honour them in their temples. There really is no separation between my spirituality and my music. Singing - whether alone in Nature or in front of an audience - is my favourite way of creating ritual.

TWPT:  Starting out did your surroundings in Australia inspire your music and your lyrics?

WR:  Well, I guess, back then,  Australia was all I knew, and weíre all somehow a product of our environments. I love the Nature of Australia, and especially the gorgeous forests of my home state of Victoria, but I was definitely aware of a sense of being separated from the source of my (essentially European) spiritual path. On my first album, Zero, I wrote the song Continental Isolation, which explores this theme. I also consciously reference Australia in the song Artemis, on my second album Deity. The full title of the song is ĎArtemis of the Eucalyptsí, referring to the beautiful native trees of Australia. The song is a recognition that the energies of these sacred gods and goddesses can transcend time and space, and be just as relevant in modern Australia as in Ancient Greece.

TWPT:  How has Santa Fe been in regard to the songs you write and the music you compose? Does your new home inspire you in ways that Australia didnít or vice versa?


photo by Karen Kuehn

WR:  I find Santa Fe extremely inspiring. I love the close proximity to Nature, where I can head up into the mountains and hike every day. There are lots of similarities between Melbourne and Santa Fe - big dramatic skies and sunsets, nice dry heat, vibrant culture. But right now this smaller city suits me much better than the huge metropolis of Melbourne. I spend a lot more time in wilderness now that I live in New Mexico, and I think that has a huge effect on my creative flow. The effect of the landscape of New Mexico may not be obvious on my Persephone album, but it certainly is on my previous album Black Snake, which I wrote while on a retreat in New Mexico, a couple of years before I moved here.

TWPT:  Letís talk about your latest release Persephone. Your bio says that it is the culmination of over 12 years of work. Take us back to where Persephone first became a concept in your mind and tell us about how it came into existence.

WR:  Iíve been interested in this myth since my mid to late teens, and have found it deeply healing over the years.  This tale of a girl who overcomes trauma - who traverses the realm of the Underworld - and not only survives, but thrives, really spoke to me. I reference the myth on a couple of songs from my second album, Deity, which came out in 1998, so Persephone really has been there as an inspiration for a long time. But about 12, nearly 13 years ago I teamed up with a friend and fellow musician, Elissa Goodrich, with the plan to create a kind of Ďavant gardeí musical theatre production based on the myth. Although that vision never came fully to light, it did plant the seed of what became my Persephone album. A few of the songs on the album hark back to those early days, and Elissa remains a feature musician (vibraphone, marimba, percussion) on the finished work.

TWPT:  Obviously if this project has wound its way through 12 years of your life it was not something that you would finish for quite some time. Tell me about how you work on something like this over such a long period of time but still move forward in a unified way working toward a time when it will be ready to give to the world?

WR:  Since those early days of working with Elissa, there were definitely periods of time when the project stalled. It can be hard maintaining momentum for a collaborative project, working around different schedules and availability. For me it was always a priority, so I found it frustrating when things werenít moving forward. Thatís why I created a couple of other albums over that period of time (Guided by Venus in 2010, and Black Snake in 2013) . After Black Snake was released, I knew that Persephone needed to be my next album, so I spoke to Elissa and explained that I needed to move forward in a different direction - focusing on creating an album rather than a theatre piece. She was very understanding and supportive. So I pretty much took the project and ran with it, all the way to Greece in 2014! Everything started to come together and flow with epic Magic once I had paid my respects to the gods at their temples in Greece. From that point on, Persephone was my primary focus. I wrote loads more songs, edited and rewrote the entire work, and completely gave over to the project. Once it was all written, I then moved fully into ĎProducerí mode, coordinating musicians from Australia, Greece, the UK and the USA. It was a huge logistical effort, and required great perseverance and focus. It became my whole life for a while there. Thankfully my husband Timothy was equally dedicated to helping me get this off the ground, and ended up setting up a home studio so that he could help with the early stages of recording the guide tracks. I went back and forth to Australia about 6 times during the recording process!

TWPT:  As to the album itself tell me about the concept behind Persephone and how the songs are tied together to form a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.

WR:  As the story of the cycles of Nature, the myth itself is beautifully put together. So as far as structure of my album goes, I really just honoured the trajectory of the myth. But my intention with Persephone was to go deeper than simply telling the tale. I was interested in exploring the emotional journeys of both Persephone and her grieving mother Demeter. I wanted to enter into their characters, explore the subtleties of their motivations, their responses to the upheaval and trauma of Persephoneís abduction. Psychologically, they both go through epic changes - Persephone from the sweet and naive maiden to the Queen of the Underworld, and Demeter from the golden Mother Goddess to the grieving and rage filled, crone-like, death-wielding Goddess. To help move the narrative forward, I use a ĎGreek Chorusí consisting of five women from various places around the world (Athens, Albuquerque, Melbourne and Portugal) to act as Ďpriestessesí to the goddesses. And Hekate plays a huge role in moving the action forward. She is really the voice of the wisdom of Nature. She knows that things need to change, and she helps to guide both Demeter and Persephone through their processes of transformation. Sheís a goddess of the liminal spaces, of the threshold. I chant her parts in Greek and whisper them in English, to add a mystical, magical, otherworldly energy to her presence.

TWPT:  Did you know that the project was going to be large enough to be a double disc CD from the beginning and was that daunting knowing that?

WR:  It definitely wasnít my initial intention to create a double album, but I had to honour the project as it evolved. There was no way that I was going to fit all that I wanted to - every nuance of the myth - onto a single disc. Even with 2 discs, there were still parts of the myth that I had to streamline and simplify - especially Demeterís experience in Eleusis. I honoured this in a single song, but I could easily have written another five or six songs for this part of the myth. Really, that probably goes for any point in the story. But as in every work of art, I needed to choose my focus. Once I decided on a double album, there was actually a sense of relief. I now had the space to do this myth justice.

TWPT:  Tell me about crowdfunding and how it has made your art possible.

WR:  My fans have always been very supportive of my journey. After Iíd crowdfunded my Black Snake album, and made sure that all of the rewards were fulfilled and everyone was happy, I was excited to set up crowdfunding for Persephone. But wow, itís a lot of work! The paperwork and spreadsheets alone are pretty daunting, and fulfilling all the rewards is very time consuming. Tim and I learnt how to silk screen so that we could create the t-shirts, tote bags and altar cloths. I did dozens of Ďone card tarot readingsí. I had jewellery specially designed. I flew to the other side of the country to perform a private concert. And signing CDs, packing and shipping took weeks. It really was a massive job. Iím still yet to fulfil my final reward, which is the ĎMythic Journeyí PDF booklet, which is now evolving into a full book. It was all very hard work, but really worth it. It meant that I was able to afford to present the album in the way I wished, as a double CD with gorgeous artwork and a beautiful 24 page lyric booklet, and also as a deluxe double-vinyl album with full lyrics. Iím super proud of the outcome, and very very grateful to all my wonderful fans who made it possible. But yeah, I think it will be a while before I crowdfund another project. Thereís so much more to it than people might realise.

TWPT:  How would you describe your music to someone who had never heard it before?

WR:  I find that very hard, and usually just direct them to my website. But if I really needed to, I say things like Ďgothic folkí or ĎKate Bush meets Nick Caveí, or Ďdark, mystical, magical cabaret musicí. Sheesh, I donít know really! Iíll leave that up to you journalists. :)

TWPT:  As a musician and composer tell me about your relationship to streaming media and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing in terms of getting your music out there for your fans to discover.


photo by Karen Kuehn

WR:  Thereís both good and bad to it. It certainly helps people to discover independent music, but it certainly doesnít pay the bills. We get a pittance when anyone streams our music. Ideally, fans will discover my music, then put their money where their hearts are and actually pay to download an album or buy a CD or turn up at a gig. I used to be able to pay the rent with my online CD sales. Not so anymore, and thatís directly because of streaming, because I actually have a much larger fan base these days.

TWPT:  As you approached the end of the Persephone project in terms of recording, mixing etc. were you happy or sad to see such a long-term project coming to an end?

WR:  There was a great sense of excitement and relief in those final days in the mastering studio in Melbourne. But I donít feel that the project has come to an end. I feel like Iíve just birthed a child, and itís up to me now to nurture it, tour it around the world, make sure that the world knows about it. Iím still fully committed to the album, and fully in the process of honouring it. Now itís up to the next stage, of promotion. My husband Tim and I have begun making film clips for the album, which opens a whole otherlayer of connection with the myth.

Two film clips are already finished andavailable to view up on my YouTube channel.

 

 

TWPT:  Persephone was recorded in both Australia and in Santa Fe. Tell me about the recording process being spread out over two countries and those other musicians who played with you on the album.

WR:  Yeah, it was pretty tricky working across two continents - in fact three when we factor in that Callie Galatiís vocals were recorded in Athens!  Thankfully I had two excellent technicians on board - my husband Timothy Van Diest here in Santa Fe, and my long term musical collaborator Adam Calaitzis at Toyland Studios in Melbourne. Adam is a top notch producer, and made it so much easier for Tim and I, instructing us how to set things up in our Santa Fe studio in a way that would then slot in seamlessly when we were back in Melbourne. I began to give the album form by laying down the initial guide tracks of vocal and guitar here in Santa Fe. I also did sketches of all of the 5-part harmony chorus tracks, and then sent them to Callie Galatia in Athens, Melody Moon in Melbourne, and Mauro Woody in Albuquerque. The wonderful Cyoakha Grace, a very dear longterm friend and wonderful musician, just happened to be visiting us here in Santa Fe, so of course I got here down in the studio and put her to work. She was so much fun! And my friend Talie Helene just happened to be visiting Toyland during one of my sessions, so she jumped behind the mic too. It was all very organic.

In the year or so leading up to the recording, Elissa and I had spent a fair bit of time rehearsing and brainstorming ideas and arrangements, so she was already partially familiar with quite a bit of the material. Iíd sent her the guide tracks to rehearse to, so this meant that we only needed a couple of weeks of really dedicated rehearsal back in Melbourne before she was ready to record. She did all her parts in crazy record time - two epic days at Toyland studio for all the percussion, Marimba and Vibes. If you take a listen to the album, youíll realise just how impressive that is, and what it says about her excellence as a musician.

The same applies to Rachel Samuel. Weíd done a few rehearsals over skype, but had very little Ďin personí rehearsal time before recording her parts. But weíve worked together for so many years that she just comes up with exactly what I need each time. For all the musicians, often I required a very specific part, but there were also times that each musician would improvise and bring their own magic to each track. It was very collaborative, lots of back and forth.

Once each person laid down their parts, we then brought them back home to Santa Fe, and Tim and I sifted through and chose which parts we would use. This was a huge and very time consuming job. In fact, we spent a whole winter here in Santa Fe sorting through the many layers of Elissaís epic recordings. We went back and forth to Melbourne a few times during the recording, and then another couple of times for the mixing process. My final trip back was to make some tiny final changes to the mix at Toyland, and then attend the mastering at Crystal Mastering in Melbourne.

TWPT:  You released Persephone earlier this year with a launch performance at Melbourneís Thornbury Theatre. Tell me about how that went and what your feelings were to finally be unveiling such a long-term project to the world.

WR:  It was a truly fantastic evening. It felt wonderful to finally share this epic work. We had nearly the full cast, flying Rachel in from England, and Callie in from Athens. Unfortunately our budget didnít allow for the other two international chorus singers, but hopefully in the future!  I remember getting a little teary when we held our Ďpre performanceí circle back stage. So many years of work coming to fruition. Just because of the logistics of getting everyone together, I felt pretty underrehearsed, so it was a great relief that it came together as well as it did. I also involved five wonderful Witch friends who regularly perform the roles of Priestesses at my shows. They did an amazing job of setting up a beautiful altar, and creating lovely flower arrangements for the stage, and casting circle at the beginning of the show. The whole thing was a ritual, and it was extremely moving. There are a couple of clips up on my YouTube channel from the event if anyone wants to check it out and get a feeling for the live show.

TWPT:  How was Persephone received by your fans? What kinds of feedback have you been receiving?

WR:  The response has been overwhelmingly and amazingly positive. Iíve received so many letters and emails thanking me for honouring the myth, and many people say that they find it very moving and healing. Iím thrilled with the feedback so far.

TWPT:  Now that Persephone is out there in the world what are your feelings on it being complete?

WR:  Iím excited, watching it gain momentum and find its way to those who are meant to hear it. And honouring it through these film clips that weíre making is so satisfying. (Iím hoping
to do one for each track on the album, but weíll see what Tim thinks about that, as heís the one doing all the hard work). Iím delighted that people in many different fields are discovering the album - from the Pagan communities across the globe, to the Goddess communities, and even the Jungian and Mythological communities. The story has a universal appeal, so Iíll be interested to see where else this album finds itís way to.

TWPT:  Are you performing Persephone live as you are out on tour?

WR:  Yes certain tracks come across well live, so Iíll incorporate them into my set. Others really do need the chorus, or the percussion. But Iíve also been running workshops, both in the lead up to the creation of Persephone, and now that the album is out, that takes people through the myth, utilising my songs at various points. Thatís been a really satisfying way to share this work. My band and I will also be performing the full album again in a few upcoming shows - particularly the Persephone launch in Sydney, Australia on Friday December 13th. 

TWPT:  Any closing thoughts youíd like to share about your music or Persephone with the readers of TWPT?

WR:  Iíd like to say a big thank you to TWPT for taking the time to delve into this work. And Iíd like to thank all my many fans, old and new, for supporting this rather unusual project! Also, just a reminder that you can download the lyric booklet for Persephone from my website, and that thereís a whole page of interesting info on my website about this project. Oh, and donít forget to tune into my monthly online Full Moon Magic concerts on my Patreon page! You can find all the info on my website www.wendyrule.com

TWPT:  Thank you very much for talking to us here at TWPT about your new album Persephone and giving us a glimpse into the creative process behind the music that we hear. We wish you much success with this new album as it finds its way to your many fans and beyond that to new listeners just discovering your work.